New Penguins GM's plans will take shape next week



Put 30 NHL general managers in a room, and things happen. Discussions are held; decisions are made. And the seeds of personnel moves that won't be made for days or weeks -- and, sometimes, months -- are planted.

So, it probably is no surprise that Jim Rutherford, still in his first week as general manager of the Penguins, was approached by several of his peers about possible trades when they convened Wednesday in Manhattan.

"This is a meeting where lots of ideas start," Rutherford said. "I had different people approach me about different things."

He didn't offer specifics, but did say that regardless of any moves the Penguins make before the start of free agency, he expects it to be a busy time around the league.

"It seems to me this could be a year with a lot of activity between now and July 1," he said.

That prediction, he said, was based on factors ranging from "how many different guys were huddling with each other, talking about different things" at the meeting to the projected rise of the salary-cap ceiling to about $71 million for the 2014-15 season.

While Rutherford has been noncommittal about specific changes for the Penguins, he said he expects those plans to come into focus next week.

"I will be starting to really get into the hockey part of this next week with interviewing coaches and talking to our hockey staff more," he said. "I would suspect that next week I'm going to get a more clear idea of some of the things I'd like to do."

Rutherford added he already has determined that the Penguins won't attempt to re-sign some of their unrestricted-free-agents-to-be, but declined to identify which ones."I want to make sure they find out from us first."

It's impressive that Rutherford and his colleagues found time to squeeze in trade talks because they also put together a long list of recommended rules changes and interpretations to be presented to the league's Board of Governors June 26.

Rutherford said he supports the ideas that will be passed along to the governors. "I'm not against any of them. I think these are good changes."

Those proposed adjustments include:

• Calling for stricter enforcement of penalties for diving and embellishment and for the assessment of fines to violators.

• Enlarging the trapezoid inside which the goaltender can handle the puck by two feet. Rutherford, who said he always has opposed the trapezoid, said goalies will have more opportunities to handle the puck and, in the process, reduce the number of big hits defensemen absorb behind the goal line.

• Conducting a yearlong internal study of situations in which a coach's challenge might come into play. The league's hockey operations department would look at when a coach might be inclined to challenge an on-ice ruling and determine how often that would change a goal or no-goal call.

• Mandating a full dry scrape of the ice before overtime, rather than a shootout, to encourage scoring during the five minutes of four-on-four play.

• Having teams switch ends of the ice for overtime, so that players must make a longer trip to their bench. That, too, is designed to increase scoring.

• Abolishing the list of shooters that coaches have been required to submit before the start of a shootout. That will give a coach the ability to choose shooters as the shootout proceeds.

• Increasing the distance between hash marks to five feet to cut down on pre-faceoff scuffles, as a preseason experiment.

• Allowing the defensive center to remain involved when there is a faceoff after an icing even if he's guilty of a violation, but assessing him a minor penalty if there's a second violation.

• Advising referees to be more lenient about accepting goals that go in off skates. "We'd like to see them bit a little more liberal," Rutherford said.

• Allowing faceoffs to remain in the offensive zone if an attacking team takes a shot that breaks the glass, strikes the side of the net before going out of play, caroms off the boards or glass before leaving the playing surface, is deflected over the glass by a teammate or gets stuck in the goal netting.

All of that is intended to generate more scoring, Rutherford said.

"As long as you're on offense, the faceoff should stay inside [the attacking zone]. If you think about it, if you're all around the net and have eight seconds left in game [and the faceoff is taken to the neutral zone], your chances [of scoring] are very slim at that point."

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.


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